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Prepping for Preps '21-22: Devon Prep

11/05/2021, 11:45am EDT
By Zak Wolf

Zak Wolf (@ZakWolf22)

(Ed. Note: This story is the latest in CoBL’s “Prepping for Preps” series, which will take a look at many of the top high school programs in the region as part of our 2021-22 season preview coverage. As we publish more, the complete list of schools previewed will be found here.)

The Philadelphia Catholic League is full of historic programs, some of whom have been playing for almost 100 years — like Roman Catholic and Neumann Goretti, who’ve combined for over 50 PCL titles in their rich history. Over the decades, others like La Salle, Carroll, Ryan, Bonner, West Catholic and St. Joe's Prep found success, while in recent years Archbishop Wood has established itself as a force.

Now there’s a new kid on the block, trying to play with the big boys.

IV Pettit (above) and Devon Prep came within three points of the PCL championship game last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Devon Prep made waves in the PCL and caught many people by surprise last season, winning nine games. In only their third-ever season in the league, the Tide finished as the No. 3 seed, clinching one of four PCL playoff spots, before losing to Roman Catholic 38-36 in the semifinals.

It was a stunning finish for a program that previously played in the small-school Bicentennial League before making the transition into the Catholic League, where they won a combined five games in their first two seasons. Now they were suddenly beating the likes of Archbishop Ryan (65-61), St. Joe’s Prep (59-56) and West Catholic (56-51), not to mention the 68-34 blowout of a very good Carroll squad.

“I remember when we joined the Catholic League, I was told by many people that we wouldn’t win a game in the Catholic League for at least a decade,” head coach Jason Fisher said. “So to win nine games last year, it absolutely surprised people.” 

With quite a bit of their roster back and a whole lot more confidence, Devon Prep’s not going to catch anybody off-guard this time around.

 The Tide only graduated three seniors, including two starters in wing forwards Eamonn Walsh (8.4 ppg) and Chris Patton (7.9 ppg), now teammates at D-III King’s College (Pa.), and reserve guard Mike Ferry

The rest of their rotation from last year returns, led by First Team All-Catholic League guard IV Pettit, a senior who played his first year in the PCL a season ago after transferring in from West Chester Rustin. Though Pettit led the Tide in scoring (14.2 ppg) and also averaged 4.1 rpg and 2.3 apg, Fisher and his staff have a deep group behind him.

Seniors Allen Cieslak — recently committed to D-III Susquehanna — and Jake Kenney are notable pieces from last year, along with juniors Lucas Orchard, Jacen Holloway and Tyler Scarpulla. Sophomore Ty Mishock impressed as a freshman, coming second in the team in scoring (8.7 ppg) while leading the team in assists with 3.0/game. Zane Conlon and Shane Doyle are two players who could follow what Mishock did last season and contribute as freshmen. 

Sophomore guard Ty Mishock (above) was one of the league's best freshman last year. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)


It’s a group that’s had a strong offseason, winning games from the Philly Live event in June through team camps in August and September, many of their players also starring for Fisher on the summer circuit with SJ Hoops Elite on another team that won quite a few more games than it lost.

“The players always thought they could compete,” Fisher said, “but I think having some success in their minds as far as wins and losses go, gave them that little bit of extra confidence that they needed.”

“We’ve got the chemistry,” Pettit said. “We’re all friends, and we all stick up for each other on the court”

Devon Prep isn't a team that has a lot of size, especially when you compare them to other teams in the Catholic League. They don’t really have a traditional big man, but they try to use it to their advantage; Orchard and Holloway, both 6-4 wings, can each play inside or out, and Conlon also stands 6-4, with Pettit at 6-3 and Cieslak at 6-1.

Playing with what’s pretty much five guards on the floor, it’s easy for them to find mismatches on the floor and attack other teams with their dribble penetration. 

It was clear at the CoBL Shootout when they beat DePaul H.S (N.J) 63-35, that the Tide are a team who does the little things well. They like to get in the pain through dribble penetration from their guards and once the defense collapses, they kick the ball out to get as many open looks as possible. 

Defensively, they’re a scrappy team that likes to be disruptive: they get into passing lanes, dive for loose balls, play good help-side defense trying to limit paint touches and they box out well, despite their lack of size.

Junior wing Lucas Orchard (above) averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“We have a lot of players that know the system,” Orchard said. “If someone tries to play one on one basketball, seniors and people who’ve been here will get on them and tell them that’s not how you play and tell them the right way to play. It ends up working out in the games, because we don’t play one-on-one basketball.”

The fourth year for Devon Prep in the Catholic League is the most promising one yet for Fisher, and he knows it. Early-season matchups against Friends’ Schools League contenders George School and Academy New Church, both of whom boast multiple high-major prospects, are a setup to get ready for the Catholic League grind, postseason included.

Because of last season’s success, the players know that teams are going to prepare extra for them this year, and that they won’t be underestimated anymore. 

“Last year, we were underestimated from pretty much every team, and we had a great year, so we’re not going to be off the radar this year,” Pettit said.

“This year, we feel like teams know that we’re good now,” Orchard said. “I think they’re mad that Devon Prep beat them, so now we have to be ready for anything.”

The Palestra, often referred to as “The Cathedral of College Basketball,” will go back to hosting the semi-finals and finals of the Catholic League playoffs after COVID prevented that from happening last year. 

As much as it can be an enticing factor for PCL teams, especially those who don’t play there regularly like the Woods and Neumann-Gorettis, Fisher sees it a different way. 

“We pride ourselves on trying to get better every day, and if that winds up being at the Palestra then so be it,” he said. “There’s only four teams that get to the Palestra, so that fifth team that doesn’t get there, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their season wasn’t a success — those kids could’ve gotten a lot better, they could’ve learned a lot of life lessons, but they might have not won that one game that would’ve gotten them to the Palestra.”

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